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A Special Gift

Explores the story ‘The Gift of the Magi’ by O. Henry

by Laurence Chilcott

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To consider the importance of giving.

Preparation and materials

  • Have available a copy of the humorous poem ‘Christmas Thank Yous’ by Mick Gowar. It is also available as a YouTube video, in which case you will also need the means to show it. The video is 1.20 minutes long and is available at:


  1. Ask the students whether they have ever received an extra-special present.

  2. Point out that people often try to find special Christmas presents for their family or friends.

    Mention some special (or disappointing) presents that you might have received in the past.

  3. Read or play the YouTube video of Mick Gowar’s poem ‘Christmas Thank Yous’.

    Point out that presents that we receive may not be quite what we wanted, but they are given with love, so we should never be ungrateful.

  4. Explain that you are going to tell the students a Christmas story about gift-giving. It is based on a short story published in 1905 called The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry in which a couple try to find each other a very special Christmas gift, but the twist near the end illustrates that we can’t always get it right.

    Challenge the students to try to guess the ending before you get to it!

  5. Read the following story.

    Della and Jim lived in an apartment in New York City. They were not rich; in fact, life was a bit of a struggle. One Christmas, Della was counting her money to see how much she could spare for a present for Jim. It had been a difficult year for them: the rent had gone up and Jim’s wages had gone down. Della had saved a little each week, but it was such a small amount, not nearly enough for the special present she had in mind for Jim.

    There were two things that Della and Jim took pride in. Della was proud of her hair - it rippled and shone as it cascaded over her shoulders down to her waist. Jim was proud of his gold pocket watch: it had been his father’s and his father’s before that. Grand as the watch was, it hung on a worn leather strap and Jim felt embarrassed when he took it out because most men hung their watches on fine gold chains.

    One day, while Jim was at work, Della went into town, determined to do the one thing she knew would enable her to get that special present for Jim. She had decided that she would sell her hair to the local wig-maker; she knew that he would pay well for such long, beautiful hair. There were tears in her eyes as the scissors snipped and as she took the money. She knew that her hair would make a fine wig for someone and she hoped that it would make them happy. Clutching her money, she searched for the most beautiful watch chain that she could afford. Jim would never again be embarrassed to take out his gold pocket watch.

    Arriving home, Della curled what hair she had left and hoped that Jim would not be cross that she had cut her beautiful hair. When Jim came home, he stood at the door and stared at Della. Quickly, she explained what she had done and handed him her present.

    Della couldn’t read the expression on Jim’s face. It was not a look of anger or disapproval or surprise - he simply stood and stared at her. Then, he reached into his coat and brought out a package. He placed it on the table. ‘Open it, Della,’ he said, ‘and you’ll soon see why I may have acted a bit strangely when you gave me your gift!’

    Della’s nimble fingers tore open the package. Inside, she found a pair of jewelled tortoiseshell combs, the combs that she had yearned for and spoken of when she saw them in the window of a local store. Combs for the long hair that she no longer had.

    Jim smiled at Della and said quietly, ‘I sold my watch so that I could buy the combs for you!’

Time for reflection

Point out that this story emphasizes the importance of the meaning of giving.

Della had sacrificed her hair to buy a special gift for Jim; Jim had sold his watch to buy something really special for Della. Each was prepared to sacrifice something that they really prized because their love was so strong.

Christmas is a special time of giving and receiving gifts, but the gifts don’t need to be expensive or enormous. It is the thought and love behind a gift that is most important.

At Christmastime, we also remember the gifts that the wise men brought to Jesus. Gold, frankincense and myrrh may seem like strange gifts for a baby, but they, too, were special gifts with a special meaning behind them.

At Christmas, Christians remember that God gave the world a very special gift. He sent Jesus into the world so that we could understand just how much he loves us.

This Christmas, let’s all remember the things that are really important.

Dear Lord,
Thank you for Christmastime, when we remember the birth of Jesus.
Help us to be grateful for food and fun and presents.
Help us to be generous and give our thanks to all who make it such a special time.


Any appropriate Christmas song.

Publication date: December 2019   (Vol.21 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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